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So... What if China's Wuhan Institute of Virology did leak covid-19?

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abj13

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Jan 27, 2005
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Well, that's the challenge the natural origin theory is going to have to explain and better full in information gaps.

A lucky recombination between strains spacially and species distanced from each other, and 1000 miles away from the sole outbreak in Wuhan. Another odd but lucky furin site insertion outta the blue, lack of known sequences establishing a pedigree, lack of known animal reservoirs, a lack of previously circulating virus, and a lab who holds a lot of the data locking down and not sharing what they working on nor large sections of their databases or unpublished virus samples.

Hanging hats that the wt Wuhan isn't fully optimized by a base pair (and hand waiving away the rest) in what's very visibly a multimodal environment won't be sufficiently convincing.

Beyond the science, the politics will certainly demand a much stronger explanation
I think you have to take a moment and think about the number of assumptions and handwaving you just argued for:
1) Recombination is lucky: As previously mentioned, SARS-CoV-1 has evidence of 7 recombination sites and recombination has been well described for coronaviruses and can occur even in the controlled laboratory setting going back to 1985. What is so lucky about it?
2) Viruses are geographically static. What study demonstrates these coronavirus strains are so geographically static that 1000 miles is meaningful? Do you really want to invoke that viruses are so landlocked like that, especially when one of those viral strains was isolated from a flying mammal???
3) The furin site is unusual. As mentioned, furin sites are commonly gained and lost throughout the coronavirus family. Can anybody explain, if furin sites are so important for so many beta coronaviruses, why from the phylogenetic tree you linked to that Bat-CoV-HKU4 and Bat-CoV-HKU31 both lack them?
4) Lack of known sequences. This is the same argument that Creationists invoke: "Oh there's no common ancestor in the fossil record between humans and chimps... hence evolution is false!" Does one really want to rely on the argument that no closely related viruses will be found?
5) Lack of known animal reservoirs: What systematic study exists that has shown this where they looked for closest neighbors to SARS-CoV-2? Do you really want to bet the farm on that animal reservoirs will never be found?
6) A lack of a previously circulating virus... This would argue that SARS-CoV-1 or MERS should have never occurred because it wasn't circulating. Do you really want to assume that the ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 hasn't been circulating in its primary host? Again, do you really wish to make that argument?

Think about the amount of handwaving that is required to buy into your points. And the biggest handwave? Why somebody would decide to choose to study a bat coronavirus that has never been studied in the lab, never been isolated and grown in cell culture, and to want to study the pathogenicity of it? On top of it, why would somebody want to engineer the sequence of another coronavirus, that also has been never studied and never grown in cell culture into that virus? And then these researchers would have to work years to not only reverse engineer the virus, find the ideal culture conditions, determine optimal ways to detect the virus, only to study what? How can someone do "gain of function" research on something that nobody has established the baseline function? Why would one study not just one esoteric virus but two and invest years worth of necessary time to simply establish the tools to study these viruses? Why would a researcher not study other coronaviruses that have decades worth of studies and tools already available, and there are already two existing highly pathogenetic strains (SARS-CoV-1 and MERS)?
 
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abj13

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You have to admit, it's still awfully suspicious that yes, a possible natural mutation happened, but it happened within countable steps of one of three viral labs that works with bat viruses on the planet, shortly after a group of bat virologists died from a mysterious, unidentified covid-like disease. Occam's razor man, occam's razor.
If you want to invoke parsimony, then you have to explain the biggest leap of faith of this entire "engineered" virus theory. Why would somebody study a bat coronavirus that has been isolated and grown in cell culture, never studied in the laboratory setting, has unknown pathogenicity, has unknown biology, and spend an extensive amount of time reverse engineering this random virus? For what purpose? And then to top it off, you have to invoke they decided to not only reverse engineer this virus, but decided to put a sequence from another even more obscure coronavirus into the first one? This second coronavirus also has been never studied, never isolated and cultured, and has unknown biology and unknown function.

It would be akin to wanting to study how CPUs work. Instead of going to the store, purchasing, and using well established and existing CPUs like AMD (SARS-CoV-1), Intel (MERS), or other CPU like Raspberry Pi (coronaviruses NL63, HKU1, OC43, 229E etc), somebody decided to get the instruction manual from a CPU from a Wang Computer dating back years ago. So not only does this person have to build the Wang Computer CPU from scratch, but they decided to engineer in a piece from a Qualcomm Scorpion CPU. But they don't actually have the Scorpion CPU, so they also have to reverse engineer that to. Ok, so now they've built it after an exorbitant amount of time dicking around. How are you going to test it? How are you going to hookup this random CPU and use it in Anandtech's testing lab? Why do all this work when you could have ordered a AMD/Intel CPU from Newegg, and use it in the preexisting Anandtech testing system? This would have taken a week and practically zero effort.

How is any of that parsimonious? Why would somebody want to study some random coronavirus that has no preexisting tools by which to study the virus, and ignore all the other coronaviruses that exist, including those with KNOWN high pathogenicity in humans? I have yet to see any reasonable rationalization of the engineered virus theory. All I've seen is handwaving about "gain of function." But why would you choose to study gain of function in these random viruses? Nobody has offered even a logical explanation.
 

[DHT]Osiris

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Dec 15, 2015
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How is any of that parsimonious? Why would somebody want to study some random coronavirus that has no preexisting tools by which to study the virus, and ignore all the other coronaviruses that exist, including those with KNOWN high pathogenicity in humans? I have yet to see any reasonable rationalization of the engineered virus theory. All I've seen is handwaving about "gain of function." But why would you choose to study gain of function in these random viruses? Nobody has offered even a logical explanation.
I'm curious as to why you feel that you personally need an explanation on these things before you'll accept it as a reasonable theory. What was the bat virus lab studying during this outbreak? Bat viruses? Why were they studying bat viruses? I have no idea, because they were, because scientists research things. It's ironic that you use reverse engineering obscure CPUs as a counter-example, given that we have people that do that kind of thing as a passing hobby.

Why would they have been doing obscure gain of function research on obscure viruses? I don't know, ask the US state department who was purportedly funding the damned research, they might know.

Look, I'm not saying that any of this is correct. I'm just saying it stinks, and has NOT had the due diligence it should have. I'm willing to accept the conclusions of an actual investigation, not of pony-show walk throughs and handwavey 'they probably weren't doing that'.
 

cytg111

Lifer
Mar 17, 2008
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I'm curious as to why you feel that you personally need an explanation on these things before you'll accept it as a reasonable theory. What was the bat virus lab studying during this outbreak? Bat viruses? Why were they studying bat viruses? I have no idea, because they were, because scientists research things. It's ironic that you use reverse engineering obscure CPUs as a counter-example, given that we have people that do that kind of thing as a passing hobby.

Why would they have been doing obscure gain of function research on obscure viruses? I don't know, ask the US state department who was purportedly funding the damned research, they might know.

Look, I'm not saying that any of this is correct. I'm just saying it stinks, and has NOT had the due diligence it should have. I'm willing to accept the conclusions of an actual investigation, not of pony-show walk throughs and handwavey 'they probably weren't doing that'.
So you DO entertain the idea that it was “man made”?
 

[DHT]Osiris

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So you DO entertain the idea that it was “man made”?
Man-made as in, we constructed a virus one dna/rna strand at a time? No, of course not, I do feel that would be absurd to consider.

I do entertain the idea that a virus , even an obscure one, may have been modified as part of some research project, to determine if it was possible to take a virus that could not infect humans, and make it so it could. It's also possible that the intent wasn't necessarily to make it so that it could infect humans, but that was a side-effect. Humans are flawed after all, and it'd certainly explain how it got released unintentionally.

EDIT: Hell, we've done gain of function research on H5N1, specifically to make it airborne transmissible amongst mammals. So yeah, the research is taking place.
 
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abj13

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I'm curious as to why you feel that you personally need an explanation on these things before you'll accept it as a reasonable theory. What was the bat virus lab studying during this outbreak? Bat viruses? Why were they studying bat viruses? I have no idea, because they were, because scientists research things. It's ironic that you use reverse engineering obscure CPUs as a counter-example, given that we have people that do that kind of thing as a passing hobby.

Why would they have been doing obscure gain of function research on obscure viruses? I don't know, ask the US state department who was purportedly funding the damned research, they might know.

Look, I'm not saying that any of this is correct. I'm just saying it stinks, and has NOT had the due diligence it should have. I'm willing to accept the conclusions of an actual investigation, not of pony-show walk throughs and handwavey 'they probably weren't doing that'.
Your point is that you want someone to believe in a conspiracy theory despite the fact the conspiracy theory doesn't make logical or rationale sense? The burden of proof is on those who believe in the construction of SARS-CoV-2 in the lab. Can you name a brand new virus that has been created by reverse genetics and recombination of two different viruses? Its up to those who believe this theory to demonstrate the burden of proof. Not only does the science side of the theory riddled with holes, but there's an incredible deficit in explaining why researchers would go down this pathway. At this point in time, this is nearing level of Q theories, a bunch of fluff and not solid grounding in actual facts. I will happily revisit my opinion if real facts are produced. But saying scientists doing "research things" isn't at all persuasive. Its no different than someone saying Pizzagate is real because pedophiles are going to pedophile and support a secret pizza place shopping kids around.

In the Coronaviridae family, there are four recognized genera, consisting of 25 subgenera, and well over a hundred different unclassified coronavirus genotypes. Why would scientists study a specific bat coronavirus out of all of those possibilities? And to double up, why would they also then take some random coronavirus from a pangolin? There isn't a plausible rationalization as to why they would study this bat coronavirus. Saying that they are scientists doing "research things" is not justification and is exactly my point. All that people can invoke is some handwaving and not some legitimate reason why out of the hundreds of coronaviruses, they chose this random one. If there's a reason, let me know!

If you want to claim something about the US State Department, then you need to understand the current status of scientific research in the United States. Money is just sitting there for anyone to do science for any reason. You have to have legitimate rationalization of why the US government should fund one's research. The goal of most researchers is to be funded under a R01 grant from the NIH, and only 17.8% grants submitted are actually funded. Research is incredibly competitive for funding. Doing gain of function research on random viruses doesn't make sense from a scientific, financial, or logical sense.

Nobody is saying don't investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2. I've already mentioned how a "lab leak" theory remains very much a possibility. Let's figure it out. But those grabbing onto theories that this is some engineered virus makes very little sense on so many levels given the facts we already have in hand.
 
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Svnla

Lifer
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<snip>

It's not a perfect theory, but it's odd enough it warrants further investigation.
Good luck with that. As the link I posted above, commie china is saying the matter is closed and no further investigation in mainland china is allowed. It is saying let investigate other countries.

Something about if you have nothing to hide then you would have nothing to fear (to be investigated fully)....hummmmm.
 

[DHT]Osiris

Diamond Member
Dec 15, 2015
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Your point is that you want someone to believe in a conspiracy theory despite the fact the conspiracy theory doesn't make logical or rationale sense? The burden of proof is on those who believe in the construction of SARS-CoV-2 in the lab. Can you name a brand new virus that has been created by reverse genetics and recombination of two different viruses? Its up to those who believe this theory to demonstrate the burden of proof. Not only does the science side of the theory riddled with holes, but there's an incredible deficit in explaining why researchers would go down this pathway. At this point in time, this is nearing level of Q theories, a bunch of fluff and not solid grounding in actual facts. I will happily revisit my opinion if real facts are produced. But saying scientists doing "research things" isn't at all persuasive. Its no different than someone saying Pizzagate is real because pedophiles are going to pedophile and support a secret pizza place shopping kids around.

In the Coronaviridae family, there are four recognized genera, consisting of 25 subgenera, and well over a hundred different unclassified coronavirus genotypes. Why would scientists study a specific bat coronavirus out of all of those possibilities? And to double up, why would they also then take some random coronavirus from a pangolin? There isn't a plausible rationalization as to why they would study this bat coronavirus. Saying that they are scientists doing "research things" is not justification and is exactly my point. All that people can invoke is some handwaving and not some legitimate reason why out of the hundreds of coronaviruses, they chose this random one. If there's a reason, let me know!

If you want to claim something about the US State Department, then you need to understand the current status of scientific research in the United States. Money is just sitting there for anyone to do science for any reason. You have to have legitimate rationalization of why the US government should fund one's research. The goal of most researchers is to be funded under a R01 grant from the NIH, and only 17.8% grants submitted are actually funded. Research is incredibly competitive for funding. Doing gain of function research on random viruses doesn't make sense from a scientific, financial, or logical sense.

Nobody is saying don't investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2. I've already mentioned how a "lab leak" theory remains very much a possibility. Let's figure it out. But those grabbing onto theories that this is some engineered virus makes very little sense on so many levels given the facts we already have in hand.
I don't really want this to turn into some huge argument over semantics, but I'm concerned that you believe I feel that this was some artisanal hand-crafted virus made by bearded hipsters or something. No, I cannot 'name a brand new virus' because I don't think that's traditionally done when tinkering with viruses. Was the adulterated H5N1 virus I linked above given a new name? Aside from some kind of internal numbering system the lab might use for such things.

I've at no point said that I was sure this is what happens, just that it's not some wild, out-of-the-ass theory, and it should probably be looked in to at the level it warrants, at minimum to figure out whether this is something we should be worried about happening again.
 

cytg111

Lifer
Mar 17, 2008
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I don't really want this to turn into some huge argument over semantics, but I'm concerned that you believe I feel that this was some artisanal hand-crafted virus made by bearded hipsters or something. No, I cannot 'name a brand new virus' because I don't think that's traditionally done when tinkering with viruses. Was the adulterated H5N1 virus I linked above given a new name? Aside from some kind of internal numbering system the lab might use for such things.

I've at no point said that I was sure this is what happens, just that it's not some wild, out-of-the-ass theory, and it should probably be looked in to at the level it warrants, at minimum to figure out whether this is something we should be worried about happening again.
I dont know what abj13's job title is, but he has put forth as fact that the difference between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 is so huge that mankind currently do not posses the technology to bridge that gap. We can do "gain of function" but not THAT much "gain of function".
 
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abj13

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I don't really want this to turn into some huge argument over semantics, but I'm concerned that you believe I feel that this was some artisanal hand-crafted virus made by bearded hipsters or something. No, I cannot 'name a brand new virus' because I don't think that's traditionally done when tinkering with viruses. Was the adulterated H5N1 virus I linked above given a new name? Aside from some kind of internal numbering system the lab might use for such things.

I've at no point said that I was sure this is what happens, just that it's not some wild, out-of-the-ass theory, and it should probably be looked in to at the level it warrants, at minimum to figure out whether this is something we should be worried about happening again.
I'm not implying that either. Even if we took the best Coronavirus researchers like Ralph Baric, who has dedicated his life to studying this family of viruses, it would still take him and his research team a considerable amount of time to do any kind of engineering on a coronavirus that hasn't been studied in the lab before. We're talking about years worth of work just to get things off the ground. And if he really wanted to study how modified coronaviruses work, you don't start from a coronavirus that nobody has studied, that has unknown function, biology, and no preexisting assays. Why waste years of time and effort to develop all those prerequisites when you can take MERS, SARS-CoV-1, the other seasonal human coronaviruses, coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus, or infectious bronchitis virus and study the effects using all the tools that already exist? Why build a CPU from 30 years ago using an old instruction manual to study CPUs, when you can just go buy one from Newegg and study it as soon as it arrives at your doorstep? In fact, he's done exactly that, using the backbone of an existing virus to study a different coronavirus. But notice what he didn't do. He didn't chose two random viruses, there was logic behind the choice of the viruses.

Gain of function research isn't the same as the reverse engineering that would be needed to create SARS-CoV-2. In gain of function research, you would tinker with a small fragment of the entire virus, but the rest of the virus would be unchanged and 100% identical to your starting virus. Gain of function research requires having a good comparison between what you started with and what was made. SARS-CoV-2 has 1200 genetic variants relative to its nearest neighbor. That's not a trivial difference, and the steps to do that with current technology is not something that can happen in a few months or even few years.

Its easy to suggest the virus was engineered and list off a bunch of coincidences. Its no different than the "magic bullet" theory from JFK. But the devil is in the details, all of a sudden, when you scrutinize those coincidences, they suddenly don't add up and don't hold up to the realities of the world. When you actually analyze all the details, suddenly the magic bullet becomes a sensible single shot that lines up with the school book repository. Its not just the science doesn't add up for the engineered CoV-2 story, but you have to have a motive as to why researchers would invest all this time and energy to do something that doesn't even make logical sense. Like I said, I am open to new evidence and new reasons, but at this moment in time, they are seriously lacking.
 
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[DHT]Osiris

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I dont know what abj13's job title is, but he has put forth as fact that the difference between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 is so huge that mankind currently do not posses the technology to bridge that gap. We can do "gain of function" but not THAT much "gain of function".
I agree, but I don't know that it was ever purported to be derived from SARS-COV, the Vanity Fair article seemed to indicate that it most likely derived from RaTG-13/RaBtCoV/4991 , given that it's the closest genetically (within reasonable definitions of 'close'), or potentially one of a few other less-documented viruses from the same caves RaBtCoV/4991 came from.

I'll freely admit I don't know too much about how virology research works, but I feel like it's not a bridge too far to take a virus which can already infect humans (suspected, based on evidence from the sick/dead miners) to make it infect humans better. It certainly sounds easier than making a virus droplet transmissible. I'm open to criticism on that of course.
 
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[DHT]Osiris

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Dec 15, 2015
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I'm not implying that either. Even if we took the best Coronavirus researchers like Ralph Baric, who has dedicated his life to studying this family of viruses, it would still take him and his research team a considerable amount of time to do any kind of engineering on a coronavirus that hasn't been studied in the lab before. We're talking about years worth of work just to get things off the ground. And if he really wanted to study how modified coronaviruses work, you don't start from a coronavirus that nobody has studied, that has unknown function, biology, and no preexisting assays. Why waste years of time and effort to develop all those prerequisites when you can take MERS, SARS-CoV-1, the other seasonal human coronaviruses, coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus, or infectious bronchitis virus and study the effects using all the tools that already exist? Why build a CPU from 30 years ago using an old instruction manual to study CPUs, when you can just go buy one from Newegg and study it as soon as it arrives at your doorstep? In fact, he's done exactly that, using the backbone of an existing virus to study a different coronavirus. But notice what he didn't do. He didn't chose two random viruses, there was logic behind the choice of the viruses.
But years of studying these viruses is exactly what they had.
In 2012, six miners in the lush mountains of Mojiang county in southern Yunnan province were assigned an unenviable task: to shovel out a thick carpet of bat feces from the floor of a mine shaft. After weeks of dredging up bat guano, the miners became gravely ill and were sent to the First Affiliated Hospital at the Kunming Medical University in Yunnan’s capital. Their symptoms of cough, fever, and labored breathing rang alarm bells in a country that had suffered through a viral SARS outbreak a decade earlier.


The hospital called in a pulmonologist, Zhong Nanshan, who had played a prominent role in treating SARS patients and would go on to lead an expert panel for China’s National Health Commission on COVID-19. Zhong, according to the 2013 master’s thesis, immediately suspected a viral infection. He recommended a throat culture and an antibody test, but he also asked what kind of bat had produced the guano. The answer: the rufous horseshoe bat, the same species implicated in the first SARS outbreak.

Within months, three of the six miners were dead. The eldest, who was 63, died first. “The disease was acute and fierce,” the thesis noted. It concluded: “the bat that caused the six patients to fall ill was the Chinese rufous horseshoe bat.” Blood samples were sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which found that they were positive for SARS antibodies, a later Chinese dissertation documented.

In an October 2013 Nature study, Shi Zhengli reported a key discovery: that certain bat viruses could potentially infect humans without first jumping to an intermediate animal. By isolating a live SARS-like bat coronavirus for the first time, her team had found that it could enter human cells through a protein called the ACE2 receptor.

In subsequent studies in 2014 and 2016, Shi and her colleagues continued studying samples of bat viruses collected from the mine shaft, hoping to figure out which one had infected the miners. The bats were bristling with multiple coronaviruses. But there was only one whose genome closely resembled SARS. The researchers named it RaBtCoV/4991.
Its easy to suggest the virus was engineered and list off a bunch of coincidences. Its no different than the "magic bullet" theory from JFK. But the devil is in the details, all of a sudden, when you scrutinize those coincidences, they suddenly don't add up and don't hold up to the realities of the world. When you actually analyze all the details, suddenly the magic bullet becomes a sensible single shot that lines up with the school book repository. Its not just the science doesn't add up for the engineered CoV-2 story, but you have to have a motive as to why researchers would invest all this time and energy to do something that doesn't even make logical sense. Like I said, I am open to new evidence and new reasons, but at this moment in time, they are seriously lacking.
Well, what was the motive for performing gain of function research on H5N1? Why would the motive for this be any different?
 

abj13

Senior member
Jan 27, 2005
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But years of studying these viruses is exactly what they had.
Her team studied the virus by detection. This is a simple, yes, no whether the virus is present or not. That's no different from the PCR assays that were developed in the first few months of the pandemic. Those are relatively straightforward assays to setup. Once the FDA limitation on PCR assays was lifted ~March 1st, many hospitals had home-brewed PCR assays for SARS-CoV-2 by the end of the month. However, those "studies" are completely different from what I'm getting at for actually engineering a virus. No where did they isolate and cultivate the virus in the lab. No where did they construct a reverse genetics system. No where did they establish an in vivo model to study the immune response. No where did they establish fundamental assays like a plaque assay, replicons, etc. This is an entirely different level of science beyond what they did.

As I already mentioned in other posts, simply trying to do what people have advocated to generate 1200 genetic variants that are present in SARS-CoV-2 would have taken over a decade's worth of continual culturing the virus.

Well, what was the motive for performing gain of function research on H5N1? Why would the motive for this be any different?
The purpose of understanding the gain of function in H5N1 is to understand the genetic basis of why it occurs and how to combat it in humans. Therefore if you understand the mechanism, you can develop antibodies or drugs to target the underlying mechanism, you can detect it better, and you can monitor influenza viruses in the future to detect the gain of function to try to subvert a pandemic.

Why study a bat virus if you don't even know if it is relevant to human health? Why would you study a gain of function in a bat coronavirus by combining it with a coronavirus isolated from a pangolin? How do you know it is a "gain of function" if you don't even know what the baseline function is? Nobody has studied that bat coronavirus, so how does anyone understand its meaning if it has never been defined?

FYI, the cause of death of the miners are not clear. In one report, it has been suggested a fungus caused it, but I can't find where that link was made.
 

Bitek

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Aug 2, 2001
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Good luck with that. As the link I posted above, commie china is saying the matter is closed and no further investigation in mainland china is allowed. It is saying let investigate other countries.

Something about if you have nothing to hide then you would have nothing to fear (to be investigated fully)....hummmmm.
Agreed. Stonewalling will just make them look guilty.

I don't think it would be tenable with small country, but China has a lot of strength to push back.

Politics could get real ugly. Any natural origin theory will need a hell of a lot of proof to help avoid it, but it's not coming nearly quick enough, and not a lot of reason to think it will at this point.
 

MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
10,104
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Good luck with that. As the link I posted above, commie china is saying the matter is closed and no further investigation in mainland china is allowed. It is saying let investigate other countries.

Something about if you have nothing to hide then you would have nothing to fear (to be investigated fully)....hummmmm.
Of course we can't trust China. Can't say they are guilty but they are definitely not trustworthy.

Man, sure sounds like the Republicans shutting down any real bipartisan investigation into the insurrection. If you had nothing to hide you would have nothing to fear right....
 
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pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
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They should have kept the "informative" reaction emoji. Some of these posts I felt _almost_ understood.
 
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Jhhnn

No Lifer
Nov 11, 1999
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You have to admit, it's still awfully suspicious that yes, a possible natural mutation happened, but it happened within countable steps of one of three viral labs that works with bat viruses on the planet, shortly after a group of bat virologists died from a mysterious, unidentified covid-like disease. Occam's razor man, occam's razor.
Citation needed for dead bat virologists.
 

[DHT]Osiris

Diamond Member
Dec 15, 2015
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Citation needed for dead bat virologists.
From the OP's article:
On December 9, 2020, roughly a dozen State Department employees from four different bureaus gathered in a conference room in Foggy Bottom to discuss an upcoming fact-finding mission to Wuhan organized in part by the World Health Organization. The group agreed on the need to press China to allow a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation, with unfettered access to markets, hospitals, and government laboratories. The conversation then turned to the more sensitive question: What should the U.S. government say publicly about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

A small group within the State Department’s Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance bureau had been studying the Institute for months. The group had recently acquired classified intelligence suggesting that three WIV researchers conducting gain-of-function experiments on coronavirus samples had fallen ill in the autumn of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak was known to have started.

As officials at the meeting discussed what they could share with the public, they were advised by Christopher Park, the director of the State Department’s Biological Policy Staff in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, not to say anything that would point to the U.S. government’s own role in gain-of-function research, according to documentation of the meeting obtained by Vanity Fair.
I can speak with personal experience that the US Govt has 3 ways in which they communicate sensitive information: What is said if nobody asks, what is said if somebody asks, and the truth. Yes, you have to trust the source in this case, but it's an obscure thing to invent unless you were trying to generate a conspiracy theory I suppose.

For the record, if anyone participating in this discussion hasn't actually read the Vanity Fair article, I'd encourage it. Like really encourage it, before continuing the discussion.
 
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Bitek

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2001
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I'm not implying that either. Even if we took the best Coronavirus researchers like Ralph Baric, who has dedicated his life to studying this family of viruses, it would still take him and his research team a considerable amount of time to do any kind of engineering on a coronavirus that hasn't been studied in the lab before. We're talking about years worth of work just to get things off the ground. And if he really wanted to study how modified coronaviruses work, you don't start from a coronavirus that nobody has studied, that has unknown function, biology, and no preexisting assays. Why waste years of time and effort to develop all those prerequisites when you can take MERS, SARS-CoV-1, the other seasonal human coronaviruses, coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus, or infectious bronchitis virus and study the effects using all the tools that already exist? Why build a CPU from 30 years ago using an old instruction manual to study CPUs, when you can just go buy one from Newegg and study it as soon as it arrives at your doorstep? In fact, he's done exactly that, using the backbone of an existing virus to study a different coronavirus. But notice what he didn't do. He didn't chose two random viruses, there was logic behind the choice of the viruses.

Gain of function research isn't the same as the reverse engineering that would be needed to create SARS-CoV-2. In gain of function research, you would tinker with a small fragment of the entire virus, but the rest of the virus would be unchanged and 100% identical to your starting virus. Gain of function research requires having a good comparison between what you started with and what was made. SARS-CoV-2 has 1200 genetic variants relative to its nearest neighbor. That's not a trivial difference, and the steps to do that with current technology is not something that can happen in a few months or even few years.

Its easy to suggest the virus was engineered and list off a bunch of coincidences. Its no different than the "magic bullet" theory from JFK. But the devil is in the details, all of a sudden, when you scrutinize those coincidences, they suddenly don't add up and don't hold up to the realities of the world. When you actually analyze all the details, suddenly the magic bullet becomes a sensible single shot that lines up with the school book repository. Its not just the science doesn't add up for the engineered CoV-2 story, but you have to have a motive as to why researchers would invest all this time and energy to do something that doesn't even make logical sense. Like I said, I am open to new evidence and new reasons, but at this moment in time, they are seriously lacking.
Don't misunderstand me, I think you make very good points, and the lab theory also has a lot of work to do.

Personally, I wouldn't put money on the engineered virus theory. A simpler and more plausible lab leak may look like something from that was already in their collection was mishandled and got lose.
At this point, I'd put this in the realm of the recent UFO videos. Claiming aliens is fringy, but it's definitely inexplicable and intriguing, and no one has convincing answers. Overall, I'm just interested to see where this goes.

Being P&N, I'm also looking at this from a politics perspective, and the lab leak theory just has too many favorable coincidences and plausibilies that it will play right into a blame China narrative.
The counter argument is just too weak at this point, and at best ends up in the same basic place where China's lack of safety and consideration (wet markets) led to the pandemic.

What's left to debate? Highly technical academic arguments? Public has no patience for that.
You already have prominent figures giving the lab leak theory credibility (eg former CDC director and virologist Dr Redfield.)
Genie is already out of the bottle.

So where will the politics go as the PhDs bicker?
Degree of China's culpability and nefariousness?
That's exactly where it's heading.

Let's see where Biden's study comes out, but if it comes out definitively against some sort of lab leak, how much credibility will that get? Not universal. He'll be attacked as covering for China. Support the lab leak? Really dangerous situation then.

The best outcome may actually be an indeterminate conclusion, and call for tighter oversight of labs and wildlife trafficking rather than war.
 
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abj13

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Jan 27, 2005
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Don't misunderstand me, I think you make very good points, and the lab theory also has a lot of work to do.

Personally, I wouldn't put money on the engineered virus theory. A simpler and more plausible lab leak may look like something from that was already in their collection was mishandled and got lose.
At this point, I'd put this in the realm of the recent UFO videos. Claiming aliens is fringy, but it's definitely inexplicable and intriguing, and no one has convincing answers. Overall, I'm just interested to see where this goes.

Being P&N, I'm also looking at this from a politics perspective, and the lab leak theory just has too many favorable coincidences and plausibilies that it will play right into a blame China narrative.
The counter argument is just too weak at this point, and at best ends up in the same basic place where China's lack of safety and consideration (wet markets) led to the pandemic.

What's left to debate? Highly technical academic arguments? Public has no patience for that.
You already have prominent figures giving the lab leak theory credibility (eg former CDC director and virologist Dr Redfield.)
Genie is already out of the bottle.

So where will the politics go as the PhDs bicker?
Degree of China's culpability and nefariousness?
That's exactly where it's heading.

Let's see where Biden's study comes out, but if it comes out definitively against some sort of lab leak, how much credibility will that get? Not universal. He'll be attacked as covering for China. Support the lab leak? Really dangerous situation then.

The best outcome may actually be an indeterminate conclusion, and call for tighter oversight of labs and wildlife trafficking rather than war.
I agree with you there. I think a major factor why some have been pushing the engineered virus/lab leak scenarios is to use it as a political tool to blame China. That's not to say China is blameless at this point. But to jump on the lab leak or engineered virus at this stage of the game, and ignore the very real possibility this virus naturally jumped species just like MERS and SARS-CoV-1 is really putting the cart before the horse. Show me the bona fide evidence of engineering or a lab leak, sure, let's discuss the political ramifications. But people are wanting to assume these theories, not based on science or legitimate rationales behind, but on what they want to believe. Its no different than JFK's magic bullet.

There's one possible political consequence that is incredibly worrisome. Let's assume the virus did escape a lab by complete accident. With the rise of anti-intellectualism across the world, the pushback is not going to be just. Absolutely, labs should be scrutinized, and its possible given China, there were serious protocol breeches, or corners cut. But we all have to think about the other side of the coin. BSL3 and BSL 4 labs have been running in the US and Europe for quite some time. When was the last time you heard about a laboratory worker or somebody in their near circle becoming infected with Ebola that escaped the lab? SARS-CoV-1? Nipah? Eastern Equine Encephalitis? West Nile? Hantavirus? Scientists in places like the US and Europe have studied these badass pathogens without any(?) or very few incidents.

There's inherent risk to studying nasty pathogens. But if we didn't have 20 years of SARS/MERS research, could we have really built a 95% effective vaccine in under a year? Would we have been able to develop Remdesivir in time? But there's going to whackjobs like Ran Paul and other anti-intellectuals and anti-science who is going to throw science under the bus. So the world will be saved by vaccines enabled by science, but then the anti-science numbskulls are going to do some serious damage to society's progress.
 

ondma

Platinum Member
Mar 18, 2018
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From the OP's article:

I can speak with personal experience that the US Govt has 3 ways in which they communicate sensitive information: What is said if nobody asks, what is said if somebody asks, and the truth. Yes, you have to trust the source in this case, but it's an obscure thing to invent unless you were trying to generate a conspiracy theory I suppose.

For the record, if anyone participating in this discussion hasn't actually read the Vanity Fair article, I'd encourage it. Like really encourage it, before continuing the discussion.
Again, it looks suspicious, but how many people work in that department? Is 3 people becoming ill a huge statistical improbability?
 

Meghan54

Diamond Member
Oct 18, 2009
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From the OP's article:

I can speak with personal experience that the US Govt has 3 ways in which they communicate sensitive information: What is said if nobody asks, what is said if somebody asks, and the truth. Yes, you have to trust the source in this case, but it's an obscure thing to invent unless you were trying to generate a conspiracy theory I suppose.

For the record, if anyone participating in this discussion hasn't actually read the Vanity Fair article, I'd encourage it. Like really encourage it, before continuing the discussion.
No citation noted for dead virologists. See a mention that 3 got sick but never noticed their “death notices” in the orig. linked article or elsewhere.

Got link to the mention of their DEATHS, not simply getting ill? Thx.
 

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